In the early 1980s the Philippines was considered Asia’s undisputed leader when it came to hosting international events and conferences, with Metro Manila’s 4000-sq-metre Philippines International Convention Centre (PICC), constructed in 1976, the first of its kind for the region. In subsequent years, as other countries ramped up their efforts to expand their share of the increasingly lucrative meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market, due to a confluence of factors, the segment found itself slipping from the tourism authorities’ priority list.
In 1982 Manila was rated as the top Asian city for conventions by the Union of International Association’s annual listings. Over three decades later, in 2013 it dropped to 18th on the International Congress and Convention Associations’ (ICCA) latest rankings for the region. As a country, the Philippines played host to 53 ICCA-certified conferences in 2013 and placed 49th globally, trailing ASEAN leaders Singapore (175 events) Thailand (136), Malaysia (117) and Indonesia (106), each of which were the venue for more than double the number of large-scale events that year.
GETTING BACK ON TRACK: Despite being one of the pioneers in the region when it came to establishing a body specifically tasked with bidding for events on a national level, in 2009 the Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation was put under the purview of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB). When President Benigno Aquino III took office in 2010, it was announced that the MICE market would be reprioritised as a key mandate of the Department of Tourism (DoT), and the TPB is looking to ramp up its promotional efforts to once again have the country positioned as a top MICE destination. This has coincided with an organisational restructure under which a MICE and Business Development Unit forms is one of the TPB’s three core divisions, along with the Tourism Promotion Department and the Corporate Affairs Unit. The department has been allocated a budget of P90m ($2.03m), and while indications are that it will eventually develop a brand and campaign specifically focused on MICE, in the meantime it is piggybacking on the successful “It’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign by employing the tagline “Business meets fun in the Philippines”.
BIG YEAR AHEAD: With 2015 being promoted as “Visit Philippines Year”, the initiative involves hosting several large-scale events throughout the year and will be leveraged to showcase the archipelago as a viable MICE market. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ministerial meeting and leaders’ summit is arguably the most important event and will take place in November 2015. According to Guiller B Asido, assistant chief operating officer of the DoT’s Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, the summit will be hosted at venues across the country to “demonstrate the existing MICE infrastructure in multiple destinations”.
PLENTY OF OPTIONS: The PICC no longer holds the exclusive position of the sole venue for international events, with a number of private sector facilities popping up throughout the country. The Philippines’ real estate boom is characterised by greenfield mega developments. Many of these budding mixed-use precincts, in addition to office parks, condominiums and massive shopping malls, contain a hotel, entertainment and an events component. The 46,647-sq-metre SMX Convention Centre in Metro Manila’s Pasay City is located beside the SM Mall of Asia, which is among the world’s largest shopping centres as measured by gross leasable area. The SM Group, a large conglomerate with a strong property portfolio, also owns convention centres in the Manila suburbs of Taguig and Bacolod, as well as one in Davao City. City of Dreams Manila and Resorts World Manila, two newly constructed entertainment and gaming districts, also offer conference facilities. For more exhibition-oriented venues within Metro Manila, the World Trade Centre in the financial district Pasay, Blue Leaf Filipinas in Taguig and the SM Megatrade Hall in Ortigas each offer 4000 sq metres of hall and pavilion space. Arenas and concert halls include the SM Mall of Asia Arena and SMART Arenata Coliseum in Cubao.
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